Understanding a mobile phone provider’s coverage is important so you know your mobile phone will work where you plan to use it. You should check a provider’s website for their coverage in areas such as your home, workplace and commute.
When comparing coverage, the first step is to look at the information on a mobile phone provider’s website. This will include a coverage map. It’s often possible to enter a postcode into a provider’s coverage map to see the approximate coverage and download speeds in that area.
Consider the following questions when comparing coverage offered by different providers:
- Will the service work when you’re inside a building (e.g. your home or office)?
- Does the provider offer 3G, 4G or 5G coverage in locations important to you, such as where you live and work?
- What are the typical download speeds you can expect in locations that are important to you?
- Does the provider make statements about the ‘percentage of population covered’ by their network?
- Is there anything in or around the areas where you intend to use your mobile phone that could affect network performance (e.g. trees, buildings, hills or mountains, bad weather, or the number of nearby people using the same base station)?
- Does the provider offer a coverage guarantee?
The ‘percentage of population covered’ doesn’t refer to the geographical area covered by the provider’s mobile network, but the percentage of people who live within areas served by their network.
Contact a provider if you want more information on how certain factors may affect coverage on their network. Some providers will allow you to cancel your plan at no cost and refund your last month’s payment if your coverage is not satisfactory.
Find out more about mobile coverage for consumers at the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) website.
If you’re experiencing problems with your coverage, you should contact your mobile phone provider. They may offer products that can enhance your coverage on their network.
Other solutions for improving poor coverage, particularly in rural or remote areas, include:
- checking you have a mobile handset that’s well suited for use in areas with limited coverage
- connecting an external antenna to your mobile device. This is often the cheapest way of improving coverage indoors. It’s also important to get an antenna with a high gain, as the greater the gain, the better your coverage should be
- using femtocells to enhance coverage inside your home or office. A femtocell is a mini base station that connects to your mobile carrier via your broadband internet connection. However, there’s usually a limit on the number of devices that can connect to the femtocell at one time
- changing to a different mobile phone provider that may offer better coverage in your area.
Check before you purchase
Before purchasing a product aimed at improving network coverage, it’s important to check it can be legally used in Australia. For example, while mobile phone boosters and repeaters are available online from overseas suppliers, they’re prohibited in Australia due to the serious interference they cause to mobile networks. There are large fines and possible imprisonment associated with using these devices.
Find out more about optimising mobile reception on the AMTA website.
In February 2018, the ACCC held a regional mobile issues forum with a number of regional, consumer and government stakeholders. The forum examined several issues, including the lack of accurate and reliable mobile coverage information.
Following the forum, the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA), Optus, Telstra and Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) agreed to work together on improving the comparability of their mobile coverage maps. As a start, they’ve agreed to use consistent terminology when describing indoor coverage, outdoor coverage and external antenna. The project is ongoing.
For more information about the ACCC’s work on regional mobile issues see:
Industry engagement on implementing proposed measures
- Understand your consumer rights for mobile services.
- Make a complaint. If you cannot resolve a problem with your provider, contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) on 1800 062 058 or through the TIO website.
- Recognise, avoid and report mobile phone scams.